I hadn’t realised that having a “red button” could be quite so addictive! Yet since the opening of the Olympics in Beijing, I have been moving from event to event with an ease which would have totally baffled my grandparents. But in these digital Olympics, one minute it’s archery, then cycling followed by a quick check on the rowing, before moving on to the semi final of a sport which, at any other time, I would never have dreamt of watching. I think that I have a dose of Olympic fever and at this rate it is going to be an exhausting two weeks.
Whilst most of the time I recoil at the way in which our lives have become dominated by a culture of ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ – when it comes to sport, healthy competition is right at the heart of it all. It is about striving to excel and that can only be measured by running, jumping, throwing or whatever it is – faster, higher or further than everyone else.
Most of the competitors in the Olympics are youngsters who have discovered the drive, determination and self-discipline to excel in their sport. They have learnt how to believe in themselves and in their potential. In an age when we have endless headlines demonising youngsters, it is just so refreshing to see young people from around the world celebrating the self-belief which has been awakened in them through sport. Behind each of them are scores of others who didn’t make the grade to be in their national team, but who also have much to celebrate.
Of course it is not just about the Olympics. Around the world there are countless numbers of young people who have learnt how to believe in themselves and in their potential – not just in sport but also in their work, with their friends and in their communities. It is this self-belief which is the key to their confidence. Such self-belief comes from the adults – parents, coaches, teachers, friends etc – who have encouraged them. Behind each and every one of these athletes there has been that essential positive attitude and celebration. Such an approach to life won’t have come through disapproval, criticism or the much vaunted Anti-social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) – but through the encouragement, approval and commitment which young people need if they are to believe in themselves and take their place in our world.
As we can see on our screens, when youngsters receive this, their potential is released and they jump high.